Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise Luke 23:39-43
I am often asked the question, “what if someone is completely selfish, even evil; and does whatever they like and at the penultimate moment says they are sorry and they go to heaven”? Where is the justice in that? Firstly we cannot fool God and to think that is the case demonstrates a serious misunderstanding of the gospel, God’s perfect character and His attributes. Our Lord recognises true repentance, real saving faith and we must trust in Him, not in ourselves. We must never reduce turning to the Lord to merely saying a prayer without any conviction of sin or comprehension of God’s grace. Furthermore if someone truly believes in Him, they will have repented and there will be evidence of change in their lives.
Let us consider the two criminals at either side of where our Lord was crucified. Initially both reviled the Lord Jesus. The first one experienced excruciating pain the like of which most people have never felt and tragically with his last breaths he mocked our Saviour. Some deny that God exists, yet strangely they curse Him and are even angry at Him.
But what about the second criminal? We know little about either of them and he had also mocked the Lord Jesus the same day as he hung on a cross. He was in extreme pain too, yet in a short space of time something had changed inside him. He recognised the need to fear God when previously that was not the case. Fearing God is the start since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10).
He acknowledged his sinful ways and openly confessed that and he did not try to defend his actions. Contrary to most of the onlookers he testified of Jesus’ innocence. Whilst almost everyone mocked our Lord, he was by no means ashamed of Jesus and wanted to be identified with Him.
Think about his request, “remember me when you come into Your kingdom”. Pilate asked questions concerning Jesus being “the King of the Jews” and even wrote an inscription in Hebrew, Greek and Latin stating the same. But this man recognised Jesus’ ultimate authority and rule. His request was an act of faith. If he did not believe, why would he have asked instead of mocking our Lord and changed so dramatically?
What could he boast of? What can anyone boast of other than in the Lord Jesus alone? What could he be sure of? Our Lord’s response gave him all the assurance he would need. He would die that same day and go to be with the Lord Jesus, His Saviour in Paradise. How we complicate matters and try to justify ourselves and others and evaluate our worthiness since our righteousness is as filthy rags and no one is good (sinless) other than the Lord Himself. We must repent, turn to the Lord and trust in Him and not in ourselves.
Jon Taylor March 2022